[Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Steve Silver ssilver at nwcu.edu
Mon Oct 8 14:48:12 PDT 2012

Sorry to be late to the discussion (been out sick), but wanted to add my 2 cents:

As someone who has never been a reference librarian, I'm extremely grateful I had some foundation in basic reference services and theory in my Emporia (Portland) Library School classes. I never had the opportunity or need to learn reference "on the job," but still find that I am often providing reference services, both virtually and in person. Without that classwork I would be even less effective than I'm sure I am now at this critical library service. Furthermore, as a library director, I need some sense of what to expect from a reference librarian to be effective at supervising and evaluating.

Reference is changing in scope and nature, and library school courses should adapt and evolve to meet the changing needs. My concern about making reference part of another course, even if a significant part, is it then becomes much easier for the content to be whittled away over time to become a small percentage or even disappear altogether. Although, like Caleb, I cannot imagine what I would cut out to keep a MLS program to a reasonable number of credit hours as there is so much that librarians today need to know.

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Steve Silver
Library Director
ssilver at nwcu.edu

Wisdom  ∙  Faith  ∙  Service
828 E. 11th Ave. │ Eugene, OR 97401
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From: Caleb Tucker-Raymond [mailto:calebt at multcolib.org]
Sent: Tuesday, October 02, 2012 1:30 PM
To: libs-or at listsmart.osl.state.or.us
Subject: [Libs-Or] does Oregon need reference librarians?

Hi, everybody,

As seen on the Hack Library School blog, http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/whither-reference/, some library schools are no longer offering a standalone course in reference, but instead making reference a smaller component of a larger course. The rationale is that "reference is dead".

My first reaction was, "oh no! not again!"

But I'm interested to start a discussion here because what isn't mentioned in this post is that the author is discussing Emporia State University, which, through the Oregon cohorts of the School of Library and Information Management, is our local library school.

I attended Emporia's most recent local graduation this past August, and I got to hear some great speakers contemplate the future of libraries. In addition, I recall that both our state librarian, MaryKay Dahlgreen, and the then-president of the Oregon Library Association, Abigail Elder, also talked about how grateful we all are here in Oregon to have a library school bringing new professionals into our community. I'm grateful also.

Do we expect new professionals to begin their careers with knowledge of reference services and sources?

To fuel my own curiosity, I looked at the past three months of OLA Jobline announcements shared with this list. Of 55 descriptions for positions in Oregon, 11 mentioned reference service specifically - 20%. I didn't get into which of those required an MLS, but from looking at the titles, only one is for "reference librarian":

Archivist for Collections Management, Eugene, OR
Information Resources and Instructional Librarian, Coos Bay, OR
Library Assistant/Branch Lead Worker, Beaverton, OR
Manager, Architecture and Allied Arts Library, Eugene, OR
Part-Time Librarian, Happy Valley, OR
Reference Assistant, Albany, OR
Reference Assistant, Tigard, OR
Reference Librarian, Grand Ronde, OR
Research/Catalog Librarian, Portland, OR
Special Collections Assoc., Portland, OR
Youth Services Associate, Prineville, OR

I'm interested in hearing your perspective!

Caleb Tucker-Raymond

Statewide Reference Service Coordinator
Multnomah County Library
(503) 988-5438<tel:%28503%29%20988-5438>
calebt at multco.us<mailto:calebt at multco.us>

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